Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lunchtime read: The Girls of Slender Means

For a while you try to work out where this book is going but it all comes together in the last couple of chapters. Spark seems focus on those moments of conversion or cataclysm where a character has the ability to change the thoughts and actions of others.

In this case the explosion of a bomb in the garden, something that has been a running point of commentary throughout the book, causes not only the destruction of the club building but as the fire escape collapses and the women upstairs wait it also claims the life of one of the residents.

The life is claims so the elocution teacher Joanna who takes comfort in calmly reading a psalm from memory as the smoke and the flames get ever closer. Her attitude to death impacts Nicholas, who is watching through the window profoundly. He starts to understand that away from the topical anarchism and posturing there are people who really believe in something.

That incident in the house, which collapses like the other bombed out buildings nearby, along with the casual murder on VJ night seems to have an impact on Nicholas who then heads off to become such a zealous missionary that the natives resort to killing him.

Just like the Ballad of Peckham Rye this is about the way people can be changed. In this case though it is not Nicholas, who you suspect of potentially playing a Douglas Dougal type role, but someone who has been heard throughout the book as she recites poetry but rarely seen. That is an idea in itself – the concept of influence through mystery – and you put this slim novella down with a few of the really big questions left going through your mind.

A review will follow soon…

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